Freddie Spencer High-Performance Riding School - Track Time - MC Garage

Smooth Equals Fast At The Freddie Spencer High-Performance Riding School

It was during the WERA Six-Hour National Endurance race at the new Miller Motorsports Park last June that I was hit by a bolt of hard truth: I suck. Prior to this realization, I was in the zone and pushing myself to the limit, when all of a sudden pro racers Jeff Tigert, Shane Turpin and someone from the Vesrah Suzuki team whizzed by and left me for dead. I couldn't understand how they could go that fast and why I couldn't keep up. One thing was certain: I needed help. Fortunately, I spent the next three days at the Freddie Spencer High-Performance Riding School.

Since its inception nine years ago, the Spencer school has been based in Las Vegas, Nevada, where the hot summer temperatures meant an enforced sabbatical each July through September. This year, Freddie decided to head north for the summer and set up camp at Miller, just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. Ours was the three-day Pro School ($2900), but there's also a two-day Pro School ($2295), plus Level 1 and II Sport/Street Rider Schools, all of which include breakfast, lunch and use of the school's race-prepped Honda CBR600RRs.

Freddie began each day by outlining our goals, such as staying focused, moving our eyes quickly and our hands slowly, not rushing corner entrances, and ignoring old, bad habits. What was amazing was I felt each lecture was directed at me-like Freddie had watched me race over the weekend and planned his curriculum based on my performance. Unlike other schools I've attended, everything he taught was applicable to my riding. Eager to improve, and ready to test Freddie's theories, I headed onto the track's West Loop with the other students on our borrowed Hondas.

Each time out, we broke into groups and played lead/follow with one of the instructors: Nick Ienatsch, Jeff Haney, Dale Keiffer and that Turpin guy. After a brief warm-up, we ran training laps starting with a slalom cone course on the front straight, moving to a trail-braking exercise at mid-track and then practicing the techniques Freddie had taught us for the remaining half-lap. In the afternoon, after lunch and another lecture from Freddie, Jeff followed us with an on-board video camera for one complete lap. At day's end we reviewed the footage, and Nick critiqued the students one at a time. When I appeared on the big screen, all I could think was, "That can't be me!" But no one else in the class had a pink pony on the back of their leathers, so indeed it was. I was sitting completely upright on the bike, I wasn't looking through the corners, and I kept missing apexes. I sat that night at dinner, introspective and embarrassed at my poor performance. I supposed, however, that if anyone could improve my riding, it was a three-time world champion and his team of all-stars.

Freddie began the second day's lecture with fundamentals such as being positive, staying smooth and paying attention to your vision and where it can take you on the track. These were the very things with which I needed help, but hadn't realized yet. How did he know? I'd tossed all these elements aside when I started racing at the beginning of the year, concentrating on being fast, not smooth. Now I finally understood they were one and the same.

Further proof came in the form of a ride on the back of Freddie's VFR. I watched his right hand in amazement as he ran a respectably quick lap around the racetrack. Not only did his right hand hardly move, but his left hand was resting on the gas tank! He was using brake pressure, not the handlebars, to steer the bike. At that point, I knew what changes I needed to make. In the past, whenever I rode at a racetrack, my wrists and forearms would get sore from gripping the controls too tightly and resisting sliding forward under braking. I simply needed to let go of my old way of riding and try something new. Freddie said in the morning lecture, "Awareness is how we make changes." He was right.

When I got back on the bike, I felt liberated-the same feeling you get when the lightbulb goes on. I felt confident and better than ever ... at least until I watched the video at the end of the day. I had made several improvements, but I was far from finished. I was still sitting too upright and needed to hang off more. I was finding it hard to break my old habits. Thankfully, there was one more day of school remaining.

On the third and final day, my confidence was way up. After another inspiring lecture from Freddie and a lead/follow session with Dale, everything just came together. For the first time in my life, riding a motorcycle became effortless. I was hanging off, trail-braking to the apex, getting on the throttle sooner and going faster than I ever had before. After viewing the video at the end of the day, I felt like I'd made major progress. And I wasn't alone; everyone was riding better and faster. Freddie had done his job successfully. Even if I still can't keep up with Shane.